SAN JOSE -- Fueled by the push towards smaller geometries in IC designs, the ion-implanter equipment market is projected to grow 58% over a three-year period, according to figures from VLSI Research Inc. here.
In total, the worldwide ion-implanter equipment market is projected to grow from $671 million in 1999, to about $1.35 billion in 2000, said Risto Puhakka, an analyst who tracks the industry for VLSI Research in San Jose. However, the ion-implanter tool market will de-accelerate next year, as the business will only grow to $1.6 billion in 2001, a 5% increase over 2000, Puhakka said.
At present, meanwhile, the ion-implanter equipment market is dominated by three major U.S. players--Applied Materials Inc., Axcelis Technologies Inc., and Varian Inc.
In 1999, Axcelis and Varian were tied in the business in terms of overall market share. Last year, Axcelis and Varian each had sales of $250 million in the worldwide ion-implanter market, VLSI Research said.
During that period, Axcelis itself had sales of $190 million in 1999, while its joint venture in Japan, Sumitomo Eaton Nova, had revenues of $60 million, they added. Sumitomo Eaton Nova is a joint venture between Axcelis and Sumitomo Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. of Japan.
In 1999, Applied was in third place in the ion-implanter equipment market, with sales of $120 million, VLSI Research added. Also competing in the market include Nissin, Ulvac, and other companies.
Nonetheless, this equipment market is becoming important for several reasons. "The ion-implanter market is not growing as fast as lithography, but ion-implantation is becoming more and more critical, because it addresses the transistor-level performance in semiconductor manufacturing," Puhakka said.
"For the last 10 years, the industry has been talking about interconnect issues like copper," he said. "Now, the technology has moved back to the transistor level, where ion-implantation is an important step. As a result, ion-implanters are getting more and more attention," he said.
And it is critical in the manufacturing process. "Implantation is the only tool in a fab used 15 to 20 times in the semiconductor manufacturing process," added Babak Adibi, senior director and global product manager for the Implant Division at Applied Materials of Santa Clara, Calif.
"As you shrink the device, the ion-implanter becomes even more critical," Adibi said. "If you want to improve the performance of a transistor, you have to control the channel of a device."
To control the channel of a device, the ion implanter must be accurate in terms of the doping process. During the ion-implantation process, a beam of electrical ions called dopants bombard a wafer. The dopants are transformed into energy that will allow them to penetrate the wafer.
Dopant concentration is critical. "Doping accuracy is the most important thing going forward to improve transistor performance," he said.
Applied here today rolled out a new high-energy/medium-current implanter for 200- and 300-mm fabs (see Nov. 29 story ). Dubbed Swift, the machine performs the parametric doping functions in chip processing. This, in turn, is supposed to boost the switching parameters in a transistor.
The Swift system complements Applied's existing low-current/high-energy implanter. Called Quantum, the machine forms the basic transistor switch by changing the conductivity of the substrate.